MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: why doesnt an explosion occur when you cut your hair?

Date: Thu Mar 9 22:48:06 2000
Posted By: Jonathan Feldman, Undergraduate, Applied Chemistry, University of Technology, Sydney
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 950831514.Ch

Hi Nicole,

You're right about the idea of atomic bombs being based on the splitting of atoms (this process is called 'nuclear fission').

Atoms are made up of really, really tiny particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons. Normally, the protons and neutrons are held together in the middle of the atom. In NUCLEAR FISSION (the atomic bomb), the protons and neutrons are split apart, so you end up with 2 lumps of protons and neutrons.

However, when you cut, tear, or break something, you are not splitting atoms.

What you are splitting are the CHEMICAL BONDS between the atoms. These bonds hold the material together, so if you break a bond between two atoms or molecules, they will separate. Imagine taking a string of beads, and each bead represents an atom. The string represents the chemical bonds. Now if you break the string, you end up with 2 lots of atoms. In each part, the beads are still strung together, but you have 2 strings. The same occurs with atoms.

I hope this explanation helps, and if you have any more questions, please email me.

Jonathan Feldman University of Technology, Sydney

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